Posted in: by David Coursen, by Kathleen Murphy, by Richard T. Jameson, by Robert C. Cumbow, by Robert Horton, by Sean Axmaker, lists

Parallax View’s Best of 2020

A belated welcome to 2021 with one last look back at the best releases of 2020.

It goes without saying that this has been an unusual year in every way. It is no less true for the year in cinema, as theaters shuttered across the nation (in Seattle, they were shut down for more than half of 2020). Many films were delayed by studios, some independent films chose the Virtual Cinema route, other films went the more tradition video-on-demand, and an unprecedented number of major films debuted directly to streaming services. That leaves the question “What qualifies as a 2020 film?” more open to interpretation. It also disperses the releases across a more varied landscape, making it harder to see everything that one might have access to in more normal years. That’s one reason our annual accounting is delayed this year. We’re just trying to grapple with the changes and catch up with what we can.

With that noted, here are the lists of Parallax View contributors and friends.

Contributors listed in alphabetical orders. Films listed in preferential orders (unless otherwise noted)

Sean Axmaker

1. First Cow (Kelly Reichardt)
2. Nomadland (Chloé Zhao)
3. Beanpole (Kantemir Balagov)
4. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman)
5. Lovers Rock (Steve McQueen)
6. News of the World (Paul Greengrass)
7. The Assistant (Kitty Green)
8. Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell)
9. Possessor (Brandon Cronenberg)
10. The Invisible Man (Leigh Whannel)

Absolute joy in a hard year:
Bill and Ted Face the Music (Dean Parisot) and American Utopia (Spike Lee)

Great drama, dubious history:
Mank (David Fincher) and The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Aaron Sorkin)

And a few more memorable films (in alphabetical order): Ammonite (Francis Lee), Bacurau (Juliano Dornelles and Kleber Mendonça Filho), Corpus Christi (Jan Komasa), Da Five Bloods (Spike Lee), Emma. (Autumn de Wilde) (the last film I saw in a theater), One Night in Miami (Regina King), Palm Springs (Max Barbakow), Sound of Metal (Darius Marder), The Vast of Night (Andrew Patterson), Wolfwalkers (Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart)

Vasilisa Perelygina and Viktoria Miroshnichenko in ‘Beanpole.’ Photo credit: Kino Lorber

David Coursen (Washington, D.C.)

1. Dead Souls (Wang Bing, China)
2. Small Axe: Red, White and Blue (Steve McQueen, UK)
3. Da 5 Bloods (Spike Lee, U.S.)
4. Beanpole (Kantemir Balagov, Russia)
5. Small Axe: Alex Wheatle (Steve McQueen, UK)
6. Young Ahmed (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium)
7. The 40-Year-Old Version (Radha Blank, US) 
8. The Assistant (Kitty Green, U.S.)
9.  Atlantiques (Mati Diop, Senegal)
10. (Tie): Small Axe: Mangrove/Lovers Rock/Education (Steve McQueen, UK)

Honorable Mention: Uncut Gems (Josh and Benny Safdie, U.S.), Bacurau (Kleber Filho and Juliano Dornelles, Brazil)

And thanks to MUBI for, among much else, introducing me to the work of Yuzo Kawashima.

Jake Horowitz and Sierra McCormick in ‘The Vast of Night.’ Photo credit: Amazon Studios

Robert C. Cumbow

I watched about 230 movies during 2020 (and the few weeks since), but only 14 were 2020 films. Of those, seven make my Top 10. I’d call them the most interesting films of 2020 that I saw, rather than the best, because I saw so few 2020 releases. Lots of catch-up to do in 2021. Most looking forward to Tenet and Synchronic.

First Cow
When Forever Dies
Bacurau
Vast Of Night
The Invisible Man
Beanpole
A Muse

My best home movie-watching experiences of the year were:
Beau Travail on Criterion
The Grey Fox on Blu-ray at last
Mädchen In Uniform from Kino

I also loved catching up with:
Dragged Across Concrete
Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice

Micheal Ward and Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn in ‘Lovers Rock.’ Photo credit: Amazon Studios

Kathy Fennessy

1. House of Hummingbird (Kim Bora) 
2. Lovers Rock (Steve McQueen) 
3. The Invisible Man (Leigh Whannell) 
4. Possessor (Brandon Cronenberg) 
5. Mangrove (Steve McQueen) 
6. Bacurau (Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles) 
7. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman)  
8. Zombi Child (Bertrand Bonello) 
9. Relic (Natalie Erika James) 
10. First Cow (Kelly Reichardt)  

Frances McDormand in ‘Nomadland.’ Photo credit: Searchlight Pictures

Robert Horton

(as published at Scarecrow Blog)
1. First Cow (Kelly Reichardt)
2. Nomadland (Chloé Zhao)
3. Gunda (Victor Kossakovsky)
4. Fourteen (Dan Sallitt)
5. Lovers Rock (Steve McQueen)
6. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman)
7. Ammonite (Francis Lee)
8. (tie) Beanpole (Kantemir Balagov)
            Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell)
10. French Exit (Azazel Jacobs)

Very close to making the last spot: Major Arcana, And Then We Danced, The 40-Year-Old Version, Babyteeth, Bacurau, Sound of Metal, The Assistant, The Invisible Man, La Verite, Vast of Night, Collectiv, Sorry We Missed You

Carey Mulligan in ‘Promising Young Woman.’ Photo credit: Focus Features

Richard T. Jameson

First Cow
Nomadland
The Vast of Night
Lovers Rock
Beanpole
Mank
Promising Young Woman
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
The Assistant
A White, White Day
The Trial of the Chicago 7 / News of the World

Sidney Flanigan and Talia Ryder in ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always.’ Photo credit: Focus Features

Kathleen Murphy

First Cow
Beanpole
Nomadland
Promising Young Woman
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Lovers Rock (Small Axe)
Ammonite
The Vast of Night
A White, White Day
The Assistant

The Seattle Film Critics Society will announce their 2020 awards in February.

Polls / Lists

The Village Voice Poll (Reconstructed) at Filmmaker

Sight and Sound / BFI

Slant

Roger Ebert.com

Indiewire Critic’s Poll

Other lists

2020 additions to the Library of Congress National Film Registry

Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell’s Ten Best Films of … 1930

Rotten Tomatoes Top-rated movies of 2020

Here’s the Parallax View list for 2019

Remembering those we lost in 2020

Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: The House of Mirth

[Written for Film.com]

Gillian Anderson’s performance as Lily Bart in The House of Mirth is weirdly un-modern — the actress seems to have tapped directly into the mindset of the Edith Wharton novel, to a style predating ironic distance. Anderson maintains this even though the film’s dialogue and line readings are (rightly so) pitched in a way that heightens the artificial nature of the New York social scene, circa 1905. Anderson, whose performance often has a trapped, corseted intensity, gets Lily’s tragedy: It’s not that Lily doesn’t understand the rules of the game — it’s that she does, but she thinks her wit and beauty can skirt that calcified code.

Read More “2000 Eyes: The House of Mirth”
Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews, Horror

2000 Eyes: Hollow Man

[Written for Film.com]

If Hollow Man doesn’t dive anywhere near the implications of its T.S. Eliot–inspired title, settling for the form and function of a summer movie, it nevertheless offers something extra. That extra is the edge provided by director Paul Verhoeven, the perverse Dutch master who brings his cruel, nasty personality to the party. Despite Showgirls, Verhoeven is a distinctive talent—sometimes incoherent, but often bracing.

Read More “2000 Eyes: Hollow Man”
Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Autumn in New York

[Written for Film.com]

Like most movies, Autumn in New York has a way of stating its themes in dialogue, so we don’t miss the point. In one scene, hip restaurateur Richard Gere asks his best buddy why he should continue a relationship with a much younger woman with a serious illness. The buddy, played by Anthony LaPaglia, shrugs in the down-to-earth way of movie best buddies and says, “Maybe it makes a sad girl happy and a desperate guy think.”

Read More “2000 Eyes: Autumn in New York”
Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Me, Myself & Irene

[Written for Film.com]

Of course the Farrelly brothers would make a split personality movie. It’s autobiographical: these filmmaking provocateurs are divided between sweet and sour, between the romance of classic screwball comedy and Mad magazine on acid.

So we get Me, Myself & Irene, a comedy about a Rhode Island cop who suffers from split personality disorder. In the gratifyingly wacky opening minutes of the film we meet Charlie (Jim Carrey), a nice guy stretched thin over thirty years of being a doormat. In a sequence that deliberately tramples taboos, Charlie melts down (in a line in a supermarket—perfect) and mutates into Hank, a belligerent jerk with no social boundaries.

Read More “2000 Eyes: Me, Myself & Irene”
Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Deterrence

[Written for Film.com]

The concept is a little gem out of the B-movie sourcebook: In the year 2008, the president of the United States is waylaid in a small Colorado roadhouse by a massive snowstorm. At that exact moment, the new leader of Iraq—evidently no improvement over the previous leader of Iraq—launches an invasion force into an easily overrun Kuwait. The president, flanked by a couple of aides and a group of very frightened diners, must instantly make a decision on the greatest weapon in the strategic arsenal: nuclear attack.

Read More “2000 Eyes: Deterrence”
Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Lucky Numbers

[Written for Film.com]

The critical reaction to Sally Field’s directing debut, Beautiful, was interesting. That film — admittedly a mess — presented a self-centered, vain, cutthroat main character, a beauty contestant played by Minnie Driver. The response to the movie showed virtually no recognition that such a character might be presented as a source of satire, or be set up for eventual redemption (which, of course, she was). Instead, critics and audiences alike seemed outraged that anyone would presume to place such a lowlife at the center of a film. (We have come a long way from the anti-heroes of the 1970s, folks.)

Read More “2000 Eyes: Lucky Numbers”
Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton, Film Reviews

2000 Eyes: Pola X

[Written for Film.com]

Herman Melville’s novel Pierre, or the Ambiguities, was widely reviled when it was published, just as Leos Carax’s film of Pierre has been generally maligned. Melville’s book came along in the wide wake of a little thing called Moby-Dick, and even if it had not, it’s a very strange novel—seemingly a put-on of a certain kind of fruity romantic tale, but stretched past the point of parody. It’s weird, but interesting-weird.

Read More “2000 Eyes: Pola X”
Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton

2000 Eyes: John Frankenheimer interview

[Written for The Herald]

One of the cool things about John Frankenheimer is that he really looks like a classic American director. Tall, and still athletic-looking at the age of 70, Frankenheimer has a white-haired, hawk-faced largeness about him. Of course, it probably helps that I am meeting him in a Seattle hotel room so big it seems positively Roman emperor scaled. The director is here to do publicity for his new thriller Reindeer Games, but I am delighted to discover him just as willing to talk about his previous films.

Read More “2000 Eyes: John Frankenheimer interview”
Posted in: 2000 Eyes, by Robert Horton

2000 Eyes: Shadow Magic

[Written for Film/com]

The lovely subject of Shadow Magic is enough to carry this somewhat awkward film over its rough spots and slow patches. The setting is Peking, around the year 1902, when Chinese culture was still fairly insulated from outside influence. We meet a photographer, Liu (Xia Yu), a very curious fellow in a society that discourages his curiosity. He plays with a Victrola, he builds himself a Zoetrope — he can’t stop fiddling around with things that have no place in his world.

Quite literally stumbling into Liu’s life comes Raymond Wallace (Jared Harris), a Westerner toting some very exotic equipment. Wallace’s scheme is to bring the newfangled technology of the Cinematograph — or motion picture, whatever you want to call it — to China. He is met with suspicion and hostility at every turn but, being a brash young man, sets up shop anyway.

Read More “2000 Eyes: Shadow Magic”